Country List | World Factbook Home
CIA Seal  World Factbook Seal Israel
Flag of Israel
Map of Israel
Introduction Israel
Following World War II, the British withdrew from their mandate of Palestine, and the UN partitioned the area into Arab and Jewish states, an arrangement rejected by the Arabs. Subsequently, the Israelis defeated the Arabs in a series of wars without ending the deep tensions between the two sides. The territories occupied by Israel since the 1967 war are not included in the Israel country profile, unless otherwise noted. On 25 April 1982, Israel withdrew from the Sinai pursuant to the 1979 Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty. Outstanding territorial and other disputes with Jordan were resolved in the 26 October 1994 Israel-Jordan Treaty of Peace. In addition, on 25 May 2000, Israel withdrew unilaterally from southern Lebanon, which it had occupied since 1982. In keeping with the framework established at the Madrid Conference in October 1991, bilateral negotiations were conducted between Israel and Palestinian representatives (from the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip) and Syria, to achieve a permanent settlement. But progress toward a permanent status agreement has been undermined by the outbreak of Palestinian-Israeli violence since September 2000.
Geography Israel
Middle East, bordering the Mediterranean Sea, between Egypt and Lebanon
Geographic coordinates:
31 30 N, 34 45 E
Map references:
Middle East
total: 20,770 sq km
water: 440 sq km
land: 20,330 sq km
Area - comparative:
slightly smaller than New Jersey
Land boundaries:
total: 1,017 km
border countries: Egypt 266 km, Gaza Strip 51 km, Jordan 238 km, Lebanon 79 km, Syria 76 km, West Bank 307 km
273 km
Maritime claims:
continental shelf: to depth of exploitation
territorial sea: 12 NM
temperate; hot and dry in southern and eastern desert areas
Negev desert in the south; low coastal plain; central mountains; Jordan Rift Valley
Elevation extremes:
lowest point: Dead Sea -408 m
highest point: Har Meron 1,208 m
Natural resources:
timber, potash, copper ore, natural gas, phosphate rock, magnesium bromide, clays, sand
Land use:
arable land: 17.02%
permanent crops: 4.17%
other: 78.81% (1998 est.)
Irrigated land:
1,990 sq km (1998 est.)
Natural hazards:
sandstorms may occur during spring and summer; droughts; periodic earthquakes
Environment - current issues:
limited arable land and natural fresh water resources pose serious constraints; desertification; air pollution from industrial and vehicle emissions; groundwater pollution from industrial and domestic waste, chemical fertilizers, and pesticides
Environment - international agreements:
party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Nuclear Test Ban, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands
signed, but not ratified: Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Marine Life Conservation
Geography - note:
there are 242 Israeli settlements and civilian land use sites in the West Bank, 42 in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, 25 in the Gaza Strip, and 29 in East Jerusalem (February 2002 est.); Sea of Galilee is an important freshwater source
People Israel
6,029,529 (July 2002 est.)
note: includes about 187,000 Israeli settlers in the West Bank, about 20,000 in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, more than 5,000 in the Gaza Strip, and fewer than 177,000 in East Jerusalem (February 2003 est.)
Age structure:
0-14 years: 27.1% (male 837,491; female 798,695)
15-64 years: 63% (male 1,905,677; female 1,889,525)
65 years and over: 9.9% (male 257,066; female 341,075) (2002 est.)
Population growth rate:
1.48% (2002 est.)
Birth rate:
18.91 births/1,000 population (2002 est.)
Death rate:
6.21 deaths/1,000 population (2002 est.)
Net migration rate:
2.11 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2002 est.)
Sex ratio:
at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.05 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.01 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.75 male(s)/female
total population: 0.99 male(s)/female (2002 est.)
Infant mortality rate:
7.55 deaths/1,000 live births (2002 est.)
Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 78.86 years
female: 81.01 years (2002 est.)
male: 76.82 years
Total fertility rate:
2.54 children born/woman (2002 est.)
HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate:
0.08% (1999 est.)
HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS:
2,400 (1999 est.)
HIV/AIDS - deaths:
less than 100 (1999 est.)
noun: Israeli(s)
adjective: Israeli
Ethnic groups:
Jewish 80.1% (Europe/America-born 32.1%, Israel-born 20.8%, Africa-born 14.6%, Asia-born 12.6%), non-Jewish 19.9% (mostly Arab) (1996 est.)
Jewish 80.1%, Muslim 14.6% (mostly Sunni Muslim), Christian 2.1%, other 3.2% (1996 est.)
Hebrew (official), Arabic used officially for Arab minority, English most commonly used foreign language
definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 95%
male: 97%
female: 93% (1992 est.)
Government Israel
Country name:
conventional long form: State of Israel
conventional short form: Israel
local short form: Yisra'el
local long form: Medinat Yisra'el
Government type:
parliamentary democracy
Jerusalem; note - Israel proclaimed Jerusalem as its capital in 1950, but the US, like nearly all other countries, maintains its Embassy in Tel Aviv
Administrative divisions:
6 districts (mehozot, singular - mehoz); Central, Haifa, Jerusalem, Northern, Southern, Tel Aviv
14 May 1948 (from League of Nations mandate under British administration)
National holiday:
Independence Day, 14 May (1948); note - Israel declared independence on 14 May 1948, but the Jewish calendar is lunar and the holiday may occur in April or May
no formal constitution; some of the functions of a constitution are filled by the Declaration of Establishment (1948), the Basic Laws of the parliament (Knesset), and the Israeli citizenship law
Legal system:
mixture of English common law, British Mandate regulations, and, in personal matters, Jewish, Christian, and Muslim legal systems; in December 1985, Israel informed the UN Secretariat that it would no longer accept compulsory ICJ jurisdiction
18 years of age; universal
Executive branch:
chief of state: President Moshe KATSAV (since 31 July 2000)
elections: president elected by the Knesset for a seven-year term; election last held 31 July 2000 (next to be held NA 2007); following legislative elections, the president assigns a Knesset member - traditionally the leader of the largest party - the task of forming a governing coalition; election last held 28 January 2003 (next to be held fall of 2007)
head of government: Prime Minister Ariel SHARON (since 7 March 2001)
cabinet: Cabinet selected by prime minister and approved by the Knesset
election results: Moshe KATSAV elected president by the 120-member Knesset with a total of 60 votes, other candidate, Shimon PERES, received 57 votes (there were three abstentions); Ariel SHARON continues as prime minister after Likud Party victory in January 2003 Knesset elections; Likud won 38 seats and then formed coalition government with Shinui, the National Religious Party, and the National Union
Legislative branch:
unicameral Knesset or parliament (120 seats; members elected by popular vote to serve four-year terms)
elections: last held 27 January 2003 (next to be held NA 2007)
election results: percent of vote by party - Likud Party 29.4%, Labor 14.5%, Shinui 12.3%, Shas 8.2%, National Union 5.5%, Meretz 5.2%, United Torah Judaism 4.3%, National Religious Party 4.2%, Democratic Front for Peace and Equality 3.0%, One Nation 2.8%, National Democratic Alliance 2.3%, YBA 2.2%, United Arab List 2.1%, Green Leaf Party 1.2%, Herut 1.2%, other 1.6%; seats by party - Likud 38, Labor 19, Shinui 15, Shas 11, National Union 7, Meretz 6, National Religious Party 6, United Torah Judaism 5, Democratic Front for Peace and Equality 3, One Nation 3, National Democratic Alliance 3, YBA 2, United Arab List 2
Judicial branch:
Supreme Court (justices appointed for life by the president)
Political parties and leaders:
Center Party [Dan MERIDOR]; Democratic Front for Peace and Equality (Hadash) [Muhammad BARAKA]; Democratic Movement [Roman BRONFMAN]; Gesher [David LEVI]; Herut [michael KLEINER]; Labor Party [Binyamin BEN-ELIEZER]; Likud Party [Ariel SHARON]; Meimad [Rabbi Michael MELCHIOR]; Meretz [Yossi SARID]; National Democratic Alliance (Balad) [Azmi BISHARA]; National Religious Party [Yitzhak LEVY]; National Union [Benyamin ELON] (includes Tekuma and Moledet); One Israel [Ra'anan COHEN]; One Nation [Amir PERETZ]; Shas [Eliyahu YISHAI]; Shinui [Tommy LAPID]; United Arab List [Abd al-Malik DAHAMSHAH]; United Torah Judaism [Meir PORUSH]; Yisra'el Ba'Aliya or YBA [Natan SHARANSKY]; Yisra'el Beiteinu [Avigdor LIEBERMAN]
Political pressure groups and leaders:
Israeli nationalists advocating Jewish settlement on the West Bank and Gaza Strip; Peace Now supports territorial concessions in the West Bank and Gaza Strip; Yesha (settler) Council promotes settler interests and opposes territorial compromise; B'Tselem monitors human rights abuses
International organization participation:
BSEC (observer), CCC, CE (observer), CERN (observer), EBRD, ECE, FAO, IADB, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICC, ICFTU, IDA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS (associate), ILO, IMF, IMO, Interpol, IOC, IOM, ISO, ITU, OAS (observer), OPCW (signatory), OSCE (partner), PCA, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNHCR, UNIDO, UPU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WToO, WTrO
Diplomatic representation in the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador Daniel AYALON
consulate(s) general: Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Philadelphia, and San Francisco
FAX: [1] (202) 364-3607
telephone: [1] (202) 364-5500
chancery: 3514 International Drive NW, Washington, DC 20008
Diplomatic representation from the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador Daniel C. KURTZER
embassy: 71 Hayarkon Street, Tel Aviv
mailing address: PSC 98, Box 29, APO AE 09830
telephone: [972] (3) 519-7457/7369/7454/7458/7453
FAX: [972] (3) 517-4390
consulate(s) general: Jerusalem; note - an independent US mission, established in 1928, whose members are not accredited to a foreign government
Flag description:
white with a blue hexagram (six-pointed linear star) known as the Magen David (Shield of David) centered between two equal horizontal blue bands near the top and bottom edges of the flag
Economy Israel
Economy - overview:
Israel has a technologically advanced market economy with substantial government participation. It depends on imports of crude oil, grains, raw materials, and military equipment. Despite limited natural resources, Israel has intensively developed its agricultural and industrial sectors over the past 20 years. Israel is largely self-sufficient in food production except for grains. Cut diamonds, high-technology equipment, and agricultural products (fruits and vegetables) are the leading exports. Israel usually posts sizable current account deficits, which are covered by large transfer payments from abroad and by foreign loans. Roughly half of the government's external debt is owed to the US, which is its major source of economic and military aid. The influx of Jewish immigrants from the former USSR during the period 1989-99 coupled with the opening of new markets at the end of the Cold War, energized Israel's economy, which grew rapidly in the early 1990s. But growth began moderating in 1996 when the government imposed tighter fiscal and monetary policies and the immigration bonus petered out. Growth was a strong 6.4% in 2000. But the bitter Israeli-Palestinian conflict, increasingly the declines in the high-technology and tourist sectors, and fiscal austerity measures in the face of growing inflation have led to declines in GDP in 2001 and 2002.
purchasing power parity - $122 billion (2002 est.)
GDP - real growth rate:
-1.1% (2002 est.)
GDP - per capita:
purchasing power parity - $19,000 (2002 est.)
GDP - composition by sector:
agriculture: 3%
industry: 30%
services: 67% (2001 est.)
Population below poverty line:
Household income or consumption by percentage share:
lowest 10%: 2%
highest 10%: 28% (1992) (1997)
Distribution of family income - Gini index:
38 (1997)
Inflation rate (consumer prices):
5.7% (2002 est.)
Labor force:
2.4 million (2000 est.)
Labor force - by occupation:
public services 31%, manufacturing 20%, finance and business 13%, commerce 13%, construction 8%, personal and other services 6%, transport, storage, and communications 6%, agriculture, forestry, and fishing 3% (1996) (1996)
Unemployment rate:
10.4% (2002 est.)
revenues: $40 billion
expenditures: $42.4 billion, including capital expenditures of $NA (2000 est.)
high-technology projects (including aviation, communications, computer-aided design and manufactures, medical electronics), wood and paper products, potash and phosphates, food, beverages, and tobacco, caustic soda, cement, diamond cutting
Industrial production growth rate:
-1.5% (2002 est.)
Electricity - production:
38.876 billion kWh (2000)
Electricity - production by source:
fossil fuel: 100%
hydro: 0%
other: 0% (2000)
nuclear: 0%
Electricity - consumption:
34.897 billion kWh (2000)
Electricity - exports:
1.27 billion kWh (2000)
Electricity - imports:
12 million kWh (2000)
Agriculture - products:
citrus, vegetables, cotton; beef, poultry, dairy products
$28 billion f.o.b. (2002 est.)
Exports - commodities:
machinery and equipment, software, cut diamonds, agricultural products, chemicals, textiles and apparel
Exports - partners:
US 42.8%, Benelux 7.4%, Hong Kong 6.8%, Germany 4.8%, UK 4.8%, Japan 3.2% (2001)
$30.8 billion f.o.b. (2002 est.)
Imports - commodities:
raw materials, military equipment, investment goods, rough diamonds, fuels, consumer goods
Imports - partners:
US 23.5%, Benelux 10.2%, Germany 7.9%, uk 6.7%, Switzerland 6.0%, Italy 5.2% (2001)
Debt - external:
$42.8 billion (2001 est.)
Economic aid - recipient:
new Israeli shekel (ILS)
Currency code:
Exchange rates:
new Israeli shekels per US dollar - 4.2757 (December 2001), 4.2057 (2001), 4.0773 (2000), 4.1397 (1999), 3.8001 (1998), 3.4494 (1997)
Fiscal year:
calendar year
Communications Israel
Telephones - main lines in use:
2.8 million (1999)
Telephones - mobile cellular:
2.5 million (1999)
Telephone system:
general assessment: most highly developed system in the Middle East although not the largest
domestic: good system of coaxial cable and microwave radio relay; all systems are digital
international: 3 submarine cables; satellite earth stations - 3 Intelsat (2 Atlantic Ocean and 1 Indian Ocean)
Radio broadcast stations:
AM 23, FM 15, shortwave 2 (1998)
3.07 million (1997)
Television broadcast stations:
17 (plus 36 low-power repeaters) (1995)
1.69 million (1997)
Internet country code:
Internet Service Providers (ISPs):
21 (2000)
Internet users:
1.94 million (2001)
Transportation Israel
total: 647 km
standard gauge: 647 km 1.435-m gauge (2001)
total: 15,965 km
paved: 15,965 km (including 56 km of expressways)
unpaved: 0 km (1998 est.)
crude oil 708 km; petroleum products 290 km; natural gas 89 km
Ports and harbors:
Ashdod, Ashqelon, Elat (Eilat), Hadera, Haifa, Tel Aviv-Yafo
Merchant marine:
total: 16 ships (1,000 GRT or over) totaling 595,319 GRT/704,544 DWT
ships by type: container 15, roll on/roll off 1 (2002 est.)
54 (2001)
Airports - with paved runways:
total: 28
over 3,047 m: 2
2,438 to 3,047 m: 4
914 to 1,523 m: 11
under 914 m: 4 (2002)
1,524 to 2,437 m: 7
Airports - with unpaved runways:
total: 24
1,524 to 2,437 m: 1
914 to 1,523 m: 3
under 914 m: 20 (2002)
3 (2002)
Military Israel
Military branches:
Israel Defense Forces (IDF) (includes ground, naval, and air components with Air Defense Forces), Pioneer Fighting Youth (Nahal); note - historically there have been no separate Israeli military services
Military manpower - military age:
18 years of age (2002 est.)
Military manpower - availability:
males age 15-49: 1,542,835
females age 15-49: 1,499,830 (2002 est.)
Military manpower - fit for military service:
males age 15-49: 1,262,973
females age 15-49: 1,223,939 (2002 est.)
Military manpower - reaching military age annually:
males: 51,666
females: 49,207 (2002 est.)
Military expenditures - dollar figure:
$8.97 billion (FY02)
Military expenditures - percent of GDP:
8.75% (FY02)
Transnational Issues Israel
Disputes - international:
West Bank and Gaza Strip are Israeli-occupied with current status subject to the Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement - permanent status to be determined through further negotiation; Golan Heights is Israeli-occupied (Lebanon claims the Shab'a Farms area of Golan Heights)
Illicit drugs:
increasingly concerned about cocaine and heroin abuse; drugs arrive in country from Lebanon and increasingly Jordan

This page was last updated on 19 March 2003